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Robotics Science

Self-Healing Robots of Doom From UPenn 135

Posted by timothy
from the just-a-bit-freaky dept.
OshMan writes "University of Pennsylvania's ModLab is doing some interesting stuff with modular robots. In this case involving absolutely no weapons! An example clip on YouTube shows one of their cluster robots re-assembling itself after being kicked apart. For more information about the program check out their site. So let the Borg and Terminator jokes begin!"
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Self-Healing Robots of Doom From UPenn

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  • Robots made out of little pieces that assemble themselves. And we don't even have the Asgard to bail us out.

    Or at least, I don't think we do.

    Rob
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      It's an interesting trick, no doubt. The trouble is that this is like looking at the technology to mark bad sectors on a disk as something on it's own.

      When you can teach this to Mars rovers to replace worn parts/systems from a rescue/resupply lander then it's something to yell about. Even better, send up a robot that can repair/upgrade/improve the Hubble Space Telescope for 1/10th the cost of a human mission and you have something REALLY cool.

      This is just a first step in that direction, and a good one.
      • No... when you can teach these things to assemble into a 50 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have the lot of them reconfigure themselves into a Hubble Telescope, THAT is when it will be something to yell about.

        • No... when you can teach these things to assemble into a 50 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have the lot of them reconfigure themselves into a Hubble Telescope, THAT is when it will be something to yell about.

          No... when you can teach these things to assemble into 2500 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have the lot of them reconfigure themselves into 50 Hubble Telescopes, THAT is when it will be something to yell about.
          • Ahhh... but does it run Linux. /* Insert stupid joke about Beowulf here */
            • Well if it ran anything else it would probably crash in a blue-puddle of cold unforgiving hex on the way over the desert...

              Damn, imagine a Beowulf cluster of constantly crashing Hubble Telescopes. I for one welcome our new innocuous-siege-weapon-satellite-overlords.
          • I thought it was when you could teach these things to assemble into 50 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have them reconfigure themselves into a siege tank to piss off your opponent, THAT is when you'd have something to yell about.
          • by fractoid (1076465)

            No... when you can teach these things to assemble into 2500 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have the lot of them reconfigure themselves into 50 Hubble Telescopes, THAT is when it will be something to yell about.

            No... when you can teach these things to assemble into 6 Mars Rovers, trundle across the desert, then have the lot of them reconfigure themselves into Devastator [wikipedia.org] , THAT is when it will be something to yell about.

        • by Facetious (710885)
          I occassionally wonder if we /.ers don't set our sites a bit high. (No, this isn't why we, collectively, can't find women.)
          • Geeks can't find women because they tend to research things instead of going with their gut, and end up believing women who didn't realize they were lesbians until ten years after their book was published.
          • I occassionally wonder if we /.ers don't set our sites a bit high.


            I *told* you http://www.mteverest.com/ [mteverest.com] was a bad idea!
    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Robots made out of little pieces that assemble themselves. And we don't even have the Asgard to bail us out.

      It was SG-1 that kept bailing us (AND the Asgard, for what it's worth), remember?

    • You know what's funny is that in the Cheyenne Moutain facility they have a room titled Stargate. It's actually a room for top brass, but everyone gets a kick out of it the first time you ask to see it and they ever so seriously take you to the room.
  • After decades as a way for humans to release tension, by kicking them; one day they shall form together and assemble into a massive re-assembling mass. Our only hope is to begin researching advance kicking and boot technology now!
    • Our only hope is to begin researching advance kicking and boot technology now!

      Duke Nukem could probably lend us a hand, er, "foot", there.
  • "I for one welcome our self-reassembling robotic overlords."

    Do/does they/it run Linux?
    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Running on PICs -

      CAN-BUS, local IR
      I would suspect at least given size and the CAN-BUS I would say no OS to speak of, as it appears that the code is done in C# with MatLAB as a compiler.
    • Nope, they are evil, it runs Vista.
      • by Facetious (710885)
        ...and only takes 5 years to rebuild itself.
      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        Nope, they are evil, it runs Vista.

        Then we've got nothing to worry about.

        • by rilian4 (591569)

          Nope, they are evil, it runs Vista.

          Then we've got nothing to worry about.

          Unless they get infected with a virus and start wiping us out...;-p
    • In Soviet Russia, sado-masochistic overlord robots welcome you!
  • So let the Borg and Terminator jokes begin!

    I think not, but I hear that in Soviet Russia, robots re-assemble you.

  • by Raistlin77 (754120) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @01:38PM (#23265614)
    The 3 modules spend all that time trying to reassemble after being kicked apart, only to stand up, fall over, and break apart again. Brilliant!
  • by FriendSite.com (1208220) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @01:38PM (#23265624) Homepage
    I for one welcome our Rubix Cube overlords ;-)
  • Just Borg and Terminator jokes?

    What about our self-assembling robotic overlords? I'm certain they will be displeased about being excluded!
  • I love it. At the end of the video when the robot has just about reassembled itself, the narrator says the robot will complete its task. The robot then promptly falls over. :-)
    • by Narpak (961733)

      I love it. At the end of the video when the robot has just about reassembled itself, the narrator says the robot will complete its task. The robot then promptly falls over. :-)
      Trying to give us a false sense of security no doubt.
  • Jokes aside (Score:5, Funny)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @01:45PM (#23265720)
    This is an interesting development and one which does slightly worry me.

    I don't believe in real machine intelligence just yet, but a device that can re-assemble itself after being dis-assembled is a horrible idea.

    First it was the "power switch," most computers don't have a power switch. You have to physically unplug them to be sure. Now, they'll put themselves back together, after you take them apart.

    Imagine this in the hands of Microsoft, perhaps a computer will re-install Windows after you've installed Linux? (Functionality in the BIOS of course, BIOS code notices Windows has not called the deadman API recently after power-up. BIOS takes over, DHCP the ethernet card, nuke the hard disk and re-install Windows from the net.)

    Leave a room of happy Linux machines, return with a miserable set of windows boxes.
    • xbill [xbill.org] a game that illustrates your fears...
    • If you don't believe me, next time your system locks up, hold the power button for 15 seconds.

      POOF! it's off. There is still an OS-independent power switch, but you have to purposefully use it because it is important to shut your computer down 'the right way.' Ditching the old insta-off buttons was good because ma and pa kent know farming, not computers, and so the computer needs to shut down properly when they hit the switch.
      • by deander2 (26173) *
        but that is still bios-dependent, which == still software dependent. which, according to the def presented by the original post, means it's not a "real" power switch, because if the computer software chooses to ignore your power-off command, it can.
        • by Tanman (90298)
          It's your hardware, though. It isn't like your OS can disable it -- if you can't switch off your computer with the 15 second method, then you have a hardware-based failure (be it a bad rom chip or whatever).

          It's akin to saying "my dvd burner won't burn because the software on the drive says not to" -- well, that's a problem with the burner, not the software, for all intents and purposes.
          • by MBGMorden (803437)
            Ok, this was all in response to a joke, but the GP's point stands. That "hold the button for 8 seconds" trick is controlled by the BIOS. That's a software component. In many (most?) BIOS's you can disable that functionality altogether, or change it to instant-off, or what not. Also, the machine still can turn itself back on via a scheduled timer, Wake on LAN, or any other number of software based devices. The simple fact is that that was NOT a power switch that you hit to turn it off. It was a button t
        • by lgw (121541)
          I only buy power supplies with a real power switch - why would any geek not take this simple precaution? OK, it's more of a precaution against my home-built machine catching fire than taking over the world, but still ...
          • I only buy power supplies with a real power switch - why would any geek not take this simple precaution? OK, it's more of a precaution against my home-built machine catching fire...
            Mine's done that once or twice. I didn't need the power switch to turn it off though, it did it itself :)
      • In my computers it's always been 8 seconds, not 15, but frequently it fails and won't turn the computer off after any amount of time. It's not a hard switch - it's a gentle request.

        On the other hand, you can always just go around to the back of your computer and flip the hard switch on your power supply.
        • by dkf (304284)

          On the other hand, you can always just go around to the back of your computer and flip the hard switch on your power supply.
          Never mind that, you can always cut the power cable with bolt cutters. (Make sure you're using insulated bolt cutters if doing this; frying yourself just to show your computer who's boss is a little extreme...)
    • First it was the "power switch," most computers don't have a power switch. You have to physically unplug them to be sure. Now, they'll put themselves back together, after you take them apart.


      I don't know where you get your computers from, but, except for my laptop, all my computers have, in addition to the soft power button on the front, a rocker switch on the back that is part of the power supply. You flip that switch off, and the computer is *off*.
      • by fifedrum (611338)
        none of the three hundred servers we just imaged for a new datacenter have hard power switches. The only way to remove power without the aid of a bios is by removing the power cable.
        • by lgw (121541)
          All of the mnay servers in our new data center plug into "power towers" so that we can remotely kill them if they become self-aware (or just stop responding). There are more scalable solutions for properly enslaving your rack-mount servers than a hard power switch on each, so there's not much market there. My home PC, OTOH, has a rocker switch on the power supply - just so it knows who's boss.
    • by odin84gk (1162545)
      Yes, if you take them appart, they can put themselves back togeather.

      However, if you break an individual apart, they can't fix themselves.

      This is not breakthrough. The only advance they are showing is the ability for robots to work together.

    • by AC-x (735297)
      Bit tenuous, don't you think?
    • by rilian4 (591569)

      Leave a room of happy Linux machines, return with a miserable set of windows boxes.
      For the love of God, stop giving Billy Boy new ways to torture us...
  • You know while on the surface this sounds funny, I can't help but think that this technology combined with attempts of AI research, could possibly just lead to a Borg / Replicator / Terminator situation.

    Ok, I could just go back to my statistics homework now...
    • Actually if all those parts of those modules are made of small enough electronics, it prolly wouldn't look any different than the blobby terminator to our eyes...
    • by pclminion (145572)

      You know while on the surface this sounds funny, I can't help but think that this technology combined with attempts of AI research, could possibly just lead to a Borg / Replicator / Terminator situation.

      You're right -- I mean, imagine if the entire surface of the earth was covered in self-replicating, intelligent entities. There would be large ones, small ones, ones with huge, knife-like protrusions sticking out from vice-like clamping mechanisms. These "animated" entities could even, over time, evolve

  • They have created The Iron Giant [imdb.com]!
    Maybe they could combine it CMU's Snake robot [google.com], so the snake can reassemble itself when it falls out of a tree.

  • A Borg, a Terminator, and Robocop walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and asks, "Is this some kind of a joke?"
  • So if we kick them apart in space, we win!
    • I know it's a joke and all that, but they only use gravity to right themselves when they fall over. So, if there's no longer any concept of 'up', what does it matter if the bot can't tell where up is?
  • After watching the video, I am quite assured the coming apocalypse will preventable as long as I remember kick my mechanical oppressor in the nads every 20 minutes or so.

    (Seriously though, it's impressive :))
  • cluster robots re-assembling itself after being kicked apart
    The next logical action is to disable the kicker so as to prevent future events. Maybe they should use a different disassembly protocol.
  • What? No replicator jokes allowed?
    • by BitZtream (692029)
      Funny part is, they seem to act more like Replicator blocks than anything from StarTrek or the Terminator series of movies.

      I for one am still waitting on my personalized Repli-Carter.
  • Robot reassembles you! Also, then reassembles self and purchase wodka on your credit card.
  • I am a cyborg, [slashdot.org] you insensitive clod!

    You will be assimilated. Resistance is not only futile, but when it's your turn you will beg to join us.
  • by Sentry21 (8183) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @02:01PM (#23265960) Journal
    I don't get it. Why don't they just make them out of liquid metal? Then they can survive all kinds of things, AND go on killing sprees to eliminate John Connor. Is this not obvious to anyone else?
  • You're a better man that I am,
    Hunka Tin!
  • That explains why all of my e-mails and phone calls to the engineering school have gone unanswered lately!

  • Finally, something powerful enough to stop George Washington [youtube.com]! I hope these things are hardened against radiation too, cause that's what he and his thirty god damn dicks are made out of.
  • They substituted infrared with something like WIFI for longer ranges and made the parts move even faster.
  • I for one welcome our new Robot overlords.
  • The Iron Giant [imdb.com] can re-assemble himself too!
    • by geekoid (135745)
      You mean the robot that can turn into a tentacle waving giant gun toting creature? that's not scary~
  • obFuturama (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @02:33PM (#23266346) Homepage Journal
    Bender's arms break off. With his left arm he reattaches his right arm, with which he reattaches his left arm.

    Fry: I don't know how you did that.
  • I mean, imagine a Beowulf cluster of . . .

    Oh, hell - never mind.

  • Just a simple "No Disassemble! No Disassemble! No. 5 is alive!"
  • by hyades1 (1149581)

    Kind of reminds me of the way my personality slowly integrates itself into some kind of recognizable shape after one of those Friday nights. Specifically, one where the poker game's just breaking up and some ass says, "Hang on a minute...I've got two cases of beer in my trunk we haven't even touched!"

  • ...but I can't help being reminded of the Brad Bird animated film The Iron Giant [wikipedia.org] featuring a self-reassembling visitor from the stars. All they need to do now is add a power plant fueled by raw metal and we'll be set!
  • That was one really scary video, of course that is coming from someone who finds Daleks scary. Wait a minute, Daleks ARE scary.

    But a lot of new tech seems that way at first because it is so powerful. First imagine these things scaled down a thousand times or so. Sprinkle robot pellets (or smaller microscopic motes) and they could quickly assemble to do a job once they have been delivered on-site, whether by an airplane, or a hypodermic needle. And, no more physically sorting parts either.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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